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City of Ash    by Megan Chance order for
City of Ash
by Megan Chance
Order:  USA  Can
Broadway, 2011 (2011)
Softcover, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Barbara Lingens

An almost perfect work, City of Ash is the story of two independent women who refuse to be trapped in the social mores of Seattle in the late 19th century. One is Geneva Langley, a rich heiress, married to a scoundrel and choking in the city's version of society. The other is Beatrice Wilkes, an unlucky actress longing for the recognition she deserves. Each is determined to break free from a nearly impossible situation.

Since the rough surroundings of early Seattle afford few opportunities for cultural experience, a motley theater group thrives. A handsome playwright enables Geneva and Beatrice to become aware and then jealous of each other and is also the source of their daring plan to make both their ambitions come true. Seattle's great fire of 1889 provides a fitting background for the women's exploits.

Megan Chance takes her time to develop the story, and we enjoy learning about the characters and the setting. The author does a very good job writing in each woman's voice until the last part of the story when they must work together. Then their voices become difficult to distinguish. And the ending seems quite rushed. It would have been so much fun to see more thoroughly how Geneva deals with her father and the high society of Seattle, how Beatrice manages at the theater under the new circumstances, and how they both make their peace with their unexpected loss.

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